The last hours of the warehouse of the French group FM Logistic, near Kyiv

25 FM Logistics employees were still present at the Dudarkiv warehouse in the eastern suburbs of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday (March 11th). Fifteen days after Russia’s outbreak of war, this French specialist in logistics and distribution is preparing to close this 61,000 square meter platform. FM Logistic has been established in Ukraine since 1996. Subject to capacity expansion in 2021, this ultra-modern logistics site still houses 80,000 pallets processed on behalf of FM Logistic customers: hygiene products and beauty, consumer goods. The last time I heard on the morning of March 11 was that the Russian tanks were 30 kilometers away.

Workers in the last trucks loaded before the closure sent basic supplies, hygiene products, catheters, and a few medical supplies to the country. FM Logistic provided local distribution for Yves Rocher and a dozen other customers.

growing market

“The local market was booming. We were even getting ready to build a new extension”, says Claude Faure, honorary president of FM Logistics. In October 2021, Sébastien Lardellier, managing director of the Ukrainian subsidiary, announced an investment project in Dudarkiv between $25 million and $30 million. The 20,000 square meter site was waiting for a building permit. The war stopped everything.

At the beginning of March, almost all of the 900 employees left. “A crisis unit was set up to keep in touch with those who fled Ukraine via a messaging app. Employees were sometimes able to reach Poland or Romania with the children. The men remained in the country”sums up Cyrille Guibot in charge of communications at the company. “All our employees in Ukraine have been paid in advance for the month of March. We are getting ready to close the warehouse very soon”Claude Faure announces. “The FM Logistics network can offer jobs in Poland to certain employees leaving their settlements and Kiev”Cyrille warns Guibot. “Our concern when faced with such incidents is obviously people. The human resources department plays an important role, finance is secondary. Unfortunately, there will be deaths among our 900 employees.”Claude Faure guesses.

weight of russia

FM Logistic has 17 warehouses and 30 distribution platforms in Central Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary). The company has 5,000 employees in these four countries neighboring or close to Ukraine, where it operates a fleet of 2,500 vehicles.

Founded in Phalsbourg (Moselle) in 1967, this family business has experienced rapid expansion since the early 1990s in Central and Eastern Europe, presented as avant-garde. The establishment in Russia (8,000 employees) was one of its pre-war strengths. It is the leader in its field with its 890.000 m2 storage area. In the 1990s, FM Logistic decided to support its French customers in their geographic expansion to the East. “Communist Eastern Europe fell in 1989. Everything in logistics had to be built”He remembered Claude Faure in a previous interview with La Tribune in July 2021. “My nephew left to start our operations in Russia. Another employee took care of Poland. We even hired a former KGB colonel to provide security”I had fun then Claude Faure. “It doesn’t make me laugh anymore”confesses today.

In 2020, Russia accounted for 19% (1.38 billion Euros) of FM Logistic’s total turnover. Ukraine represented 2% of its activity. The family-owned group (28,000 employees) operates in 14 countries. “We will not leave Russia. The activities in this country are organized independently. We have understood for a while that Russia should live in autarky and work with the ruble. We were ready. Now what will be the level of activity in this country? Is it closed to international trade? Nobody knows.”He knows Claude Faure.